Sedalia is widely known as a manufacturing town, and many of those companies located to the area thanks to a woman who is saying farewell after 12 years.
Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County Executive Director Linda Christle announced her retirement July 15, the 12-year anniversary of her first day as EDSPC executive director. When she leaves the office for the last time, it will be 39 years to the day that she began her career in economic development.
Some of Christle’s firsts with EDSPC were big ones — the first company she helped was Duke Manufacturing, getting them into a new building, and the first company she recruited to Pettis County was ProEnergy. She said she’s enjoyed watching those companies and others grow in the community.
Since her first day, Christle has made it clear that while it’s important to recruit new businesses, it’s even more important to retain the ones a community already has.
“It’s wonderful to bring in new companies, but a dying community doesn’t bring in new business, a thriving community does,” she said.
To help re-instill a sense of pride in Sedalia and Pettis County, she implemented several events for the first time.
“I think one of the major things was bringing everybody together, bringing a pride to the community that should’ve been here, but for whatever reason needed to be rebuilt,” Christle said. “Celebrating having the companies here with the events is not a thing economic development normally does, but it really was necessary because what had happened was the companies were brought in and then just relatively forgotten and on their own and we needed to change that to let them know we were here for them and to give them pride that they have their company here.”
Those events include the recognition banquets, Works for You and Manufacturers Milestone, the annual holiday gala, and the Sedalia Showcase during the Missouri State Fair. Sedalia Showcase, and the other events, have grown over the years — Christle said she bought 30 tickets for the Governor’s Ham Breakfast for the first Showcase, but she bought 105 this year.
The companies weren’t the only ones being recognized. In 2011, Christle received the Economic Development Career Service award from Gov. Jay Nixon, and in 2014, she received the Economic Developer of the Year Award from her peers in Missouri.
Christle also created several EDSPC task forces, such as the Manufacturers’ Roundtable and the Mayors’ Roundtable.
During Christle’s tenure, three Enhanced Enterprise Zones were created, which now house 55 companies. Christle said offering a tax break on a building is a small gesture when compared to what those companies bring the community.
“You have a company that’s coming in and you now have zero income from them, they’re going to add employees, pay taxes on their equipment and on their land and pay their employees that maybe didn’t have employment, and you’re giving them a small tax break on the building,” Christle said. “… In addition when you have that investment, there’s construction companies that construct that building … so you’re not only adding that building, you’ve got all of those spin-offs. I think sometimes people don’t realize that ripple effect.”
In 39 years in economic development, Christle said Sedalia-Pettis County is the best community she’s worked in due to the partnerships and “can-do attitude.”
“When we sit down to talk about a prospect, I think the reason is because it is not, ‘we can’t do that, we don’t want to do that, we don’t know how,’ it’s none of that. It’s ‘we can do this and let’s figure out a way to make it work,’” she said. “That’s what makes this the best council and city and county and city administrator because everyone sits down and instead of when a prospect asks a question, ‘can you do this?’ they say yes and we put our heads together.”
Once she leaves Sedalia, Christle will live in Florida so she can spend more time with her family, leaving the community “stronger than when I came in as far as unification.”
“I feel good about where Sedalia and Pettis County is. I think they’ve really reached a great spot as far as in the community. It’s solid, it’s positive, the companies are solid,” she said. “There’s a momentum going that can grow and I see that when you’ve got the solid foundation that we’ve been able to achieve that wasn’t really here, someone can take it and it’s a perfect time to soar. (New Executive Director and Sedalian) Jessica Craig is just an ideal person to do that.
“… On a personal basis, I’ve missed a lot of baseball games, basketball games of my grandchildren. … I missed a lot of that by the job because it requires a lot of your time, so I want to do those things.”
A farewell reception for Christle will be hosted from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28 at the EDSPC office, 3615 W. Broadway Blvd., third floor.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or on Twitter @NicoleRCooke.